ANA Attendees Get Another Ad Bashing, Tongue Lashing

Lawyers, agency execs and a few creative types gathered for an Association of National Advertisers' forum Wednesday, covering legal aspects of advertising as the industry is transformed by technology and new business models.  Speakers included attorneys, Justice Department officials, and legal analysts, but it was another jab from consumer advocacy groups that really stuck in their craw, especially since it game immediately following a luncheon.

Two prominent ad industry critics -- Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Executive Director Michael Jacobson; and Commercial Alert Executive Director Gary Ruskin -- delivered fiery and warned about ongoing litigation against well-known advertisers, especially food marketers and ad agencies of peddling unhealthy food to kids.

The advertising industry, in particular, will be held to account for its "right wing, reactionary views," promised the CSPI's Jacobson, which is suing Viacom and Kellogg in Massachusetts with the hope of obtaining an injunction against advertising unhealthy foods to audiences where 15 percent or more of audience members are under age eight.

In the same vein, Commercial Alert's Ruskin, opened his speech by observing that polls show "most Americans really despise what you do."  Later, Ruskin said "Americans are tolerant, but they will reach a point where they will say that's it, they've had enough." Twisting the dagger, he later cited polls to the effect that "your industry is not yet as unpopular as the tobacco industry."

Ruskin evinced particular concern over paid product placement in shows, arguing that all paid advertising must identify itself as such. Brief notes about "promotional consideration" during widely ignored credits sequences, Ruskin opined, are simply laughable evasions. Worse, he went on, the "subliminal" nature of product placement ultimately leads to a "commercialization of human relationships," with the goal of surrounding every individual with unknowing "corporate shills" -- i.e., their friends and family.

He also dismissed an audience member's suggestion that product placement for non-cash benefits like brand alignment might not constitute paid product placement.  "We're looking at paid consideration," Ruskin replied.  "And that means any consideration at all."

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